State Fair Recycling and Environmental Sustainability Efforts
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State Fair Recycling and Environmental Sustainability Efforts

An Introduction to NSF Environmental Sustainability

The Nebraska State Fair (NSF) is an annual 11 day event with attendance welcoming over 379,000 attendees from all over the state and region in 2017. Established in 1868 the Fair continues to showcase people, talent, and products of Nebraska. The Fair began environmental efforts by recycling used fryer oils in the 1990s. Nebraska State Fair progressed from oil recycling to an 86% waste diversion in 2014! The Fair's Sustaiinability Plan has spurred expansion of recycling, education and sustainability efforts yielding measurable and truly amazing results! Thanks to support from hundreds of volunteers, multiple partners and supporters, diversion efforts have been 77% or more each year since 2014. That's a big deal! The Fair's annual survey finds that, amongst other things, more than 88% of Guests find it important or very important that the NSF has a recycling program. We accept feedback and suggestions from all sources as we seek ways to grow our Recycling and Sustainability Plan and to inspire Nebraskans to do the same. Please let us know if you or your organization is interested to bring your environmental messaging to the 2018 Nebraska State Fair:

2017 Sustainability Pavilion Photo Pages

2018 Sustainability Pavilion Map
2018 Sustainability Pavilion Request to Participate (on-line form)

NSF Weighing in and Diverting from the Landfill

• Plastic 1.48 (tons) in 2017

Recycling plastic saves twice as much energy than incinerating it.

• Cardboard 2.16 (tons) in 2017

Every ton of paper recycled saves more than 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space.

• Co Mingled plastic/cardboard/alum 8.26 (tons) in 2017

TOTAL Co-mingled plastic & Cardboard 15.24(tons) since 2014

• Animal Waste/Bedding 633 (tons) in 2017

Animal waste and bedding is composted to produce enriched soil compost which is sold to area ranchers and residents

• Used Fryer Oil 900 (gallons) in 2017

The amount of Biodiesel created from used fryer oil is enough to power a VW Jetta on a trip from San Francisco to New York City ....27 times!

• Aluminum Cans 402 (pounds) in 2017

Two-thirds of the aluminum ever produced is in use today. 33 12 oz. aluminum cans = 1 pound

• Food Waste Compost 2200 (pounds) in 2017

Food waste is used to enhance the composting process for livestock bedding.

J-Tech Solar Sustainability Pavilion

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J-Tech Solar Sustainability Pavilion is the place to learn about environmental sustainability, specifically how to make good choices to sustain our ecosystem. Many partners contribute to our interactive exhibits, presentations, and demonstrations about good choices to benefit the earth, natural resources, and wildlife. The ceiling canopy was designed and created by Garth Britzman. The colorful fabric is treated with Eco Active Fresh. With the Eco Fresh treatment, the canopy breathes in dirty, smelly, polluted air and exhales clean, fresh air through the treated fabric.

NEW in 2018!

Enlarged and expanded layout allows the Fair to add new interactive exhibits to the Pavilion
Lounge Chairs made out of recycled tennis balls!
Central Community College interactive exhibits:

Previous Interactive Exhibits at the NSF

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In October, 2017, NSF worked with Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, the University of Nebraska Extension, UNL Master Gardener's, the Grand Island Tree Board, and Community Volunteers to plant 70 new trees and shrubs in the Family Fun Zone. This Re-Tree the FFZ Project was a proactive approach to combat the potential arrival of the Emerald Ash Borer. We planted with a 2:1 ratio of Nebraska Natives: Introduced species and we used a variety of species to further extend the life cycle potential. New plantings will be more mature in the upcoming 5-10 years when we expect to see the EAB in the Grand Island area.
Trees and shrubs were planted in clusters to foster wildlife habitats. Other trees were planted close to walk ways to provide shade and aesthetic to paths throughout the Family Fun Zone.

In August, 2017, J-Tech Solar installed 98 solar panels onto the roof of the Nebraska Building. Facing south, just above the Game & Parks waterfall and aquariums, the Fair has been collecting solar rays and utilizing the power year-round!

In 2016, the Fair started to collect food waste from Concessions. The food waste is used to enhance the composting process of our livestock bedding.

In 2015, NSF worked with EpochLabs to produce an interactive sustainability attraction. The exhibit focused on the sustainability themes of food, water, energy and waste. The exhibit included information on the current NSF environmental efforts and future goals.

In 2014 Fair guests helped to construct a plastic bottle dome throughout the Fair. At the end of the Fair, the sculpture showed how quick plastic bottles become used and on site education stressed the importance of keeping these bottles out of the landfill. Basic recycling education was included and the dome was a compelling way to get Guests to have a hand in the process of keeping bottles out of the landfill.

Annually, the NSF hosts a number of contests where Exhibitors create projects that relate to recycling and/or sustainability. A few examples of our contests include the Recycled Garden, upcycling in Textile Arts and Group Art bottle cap projects.

NSF Environmental Certifications and Awards

  • Keep Nebraska Beautiful (KNB) Environmental Business, 2016
  • WasteCapNE Sustainable Business, 2015
  • International Association of Fairs and Expositions (IAFE) Sustainability, 2013

NSF Environmental Partners

  • Barr Middle Schools Roots & Shoots Club brought middle school students to talk with Guests about pollinators and environmental sustainability.
  • Big Red Worms provided an interactive vermiculture exhibit, explaining the benefits of worms to composting processes.
  • Bike Barn , the Bike Barn is where you left your bicycle while you were enjoying the Fair. Riding your bike to the Fair (and other places in town) saves fuel and pollution in our community.
  • Central Community College, CCC presented about Bees, Butterfly's and Blooms! CCC is expanding their participation in 2018 by adding a number of classroom curriculum exhibits to the Pavilion!
  • Central Platte Natural Resources District was out with seven other NRDs in full force to quiz Largest Classroom attendees about identifying wildlife tracks.
  • Recycled Garden Displays at the Fair showed Guests that they CAN find and re-use an item or material that some would consider trash.
  • Chief Industries, designed, created and donated 11 flower pot trellises made from recycled/scrap steel.
  • GIPS Success Academy explained the importance of Protecting the Monarch Butterfly.
  • Grand Island Area Clean Community Systems brought a reuse exhibit where Guests make a parachute out of recycled materials. GIACC also assists with recycling containers at the annual State Fair.
  • Kramer's Iron was our aluminum recycling hauler. They provided the crushed can cube in the 2016 MP Sustainability Pavilion. The crushed can cube is made up of 37,414 aluminum cans and weighs in at 1,069 lbs.
  • Habitat Re-Store exhibit reminded us that there are many re-useable materials available to build with.
  • Hastings Environmental Action Team (HEAT) provided education to Guests about Why We Need Bees.
  • Izaak Walton provided a recycled bottle bird feeder make and take.
  • J-Tech Solar installed 98 solar panels on the Nebraska Building and provided solar power man cave to demonstrate the use of solar power, they also became the sponsor of the Sustainability Pavilion
  • Nebraska Automotive Recycling Association flipped a car on the side and labeled the recyclable and reusable parts of the vehicle.
  • Nebraska Division, Izaak Walton League of America hosts a recycled bottle bird feeder activity.
  • Nebraska Recycling Council offered information about Overcoming Barriers to Recycling in Rural Nebraska.
  • Nebraska Screw Press provided consulting and service for NSF oil recycling. They provided education about grape seed oil and other general environmental consulting.
  • O'Neill Wood Resources hauled and composted the livestock bedding as well as the Concessions Food Waste Composting (FWC) in 2016.
  • Omaha Bio-Fuels COOP was a new partner in 2016. They collected, hauled and processed our fryer oils. We recycled over 900 gallons of fryer oil in 2016.
  • Second Nature provided 130 outdoor plastic bottle recycle bins for the Fair in 2016.
  • WasteCap NE provided consulting and networking for NSF sustainability efforts.
  • Volunteers assisted with cardboard collections during State Fair set up.
  • Vendors sorted their waste so it could be recycled.
  • Guests participated by sorting their waste on the Fairgrounds as well.


Funding Support for NSF Environmental Efforts

  • Casey's General Store
  • Grand Island Community Foundation
  • Innovative Grant Services, Kris Vrooman
  • Keep America Beautiful (KAB)
  • Nebraska Academy of Sciences, PIE
  • Nebraska Environmental Trust
  • Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ)
  • Nebraska State Recycling Association (NSRA)
  • Nebraska Statewide Arboretum


Future Environmental Projects

  • Wind power demonstrations
  • Focus on residential, agricultural, and commercial sustainability efforts and education.
  • Food waste composting
  • Corn cob building block sculptures (community art display)
  • A mobile learning pavilion focused on transportation and the need to buy local
  • Recycling Loading Dock
  • Trash and Recycling Compactors
  • Other ideas and suggestions are welcome from all sources!
  • Contact us at (308) 382-1620 to get involved, donate, or tell us how these efforts have inspired you!

Why Recyle?

Recycling is one of the best ways for you to have a positive empact on the world in which we live.
The amount of rubbish we create is constantly increasing.
* Think about how much product packaging materials have changed over the past 20 years.
*Do you think society is more or less likely to consume fast food regularly, what about the packaging of our fast food restaurants?
Waste has a huge negative impact on the natural environment.
*Harmful chemicals and greenhouse gasses are released from rubbish in landfill sites.
*Recycling can help to reduce pollution caused by waste.
*Recycling requires less energy than processing done with raw materials.
Preserve natural resources for future generations. Recycling reduces the need for raw materials; it also uses less energy, therefore preserving natural resources for the future.
Recycling saves energy, water and the environment.

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